The Wait – Chapter 15

Ajoke resumed in school weeks later to study Law. She recruited a maid who helped her with the cleaning of the house, picked up her kids from school and made lunch for them, while they awaited Ajoke’s return in the evening. She decided to visit her parents two days before she was to resume school. As she walked the journey from the bus-stop to her father’s house, different thoughts ran through her mind. If not for Kokumo, I would not step into Baami’s house to give him this news. They don’t deserve to share in this joy that Kokumo has brought into my life. This celebration is meant to be for Kokumo and I alone. What would I do without you Kokumo? Life has new meaning to me all because of you. Kokumo! My one and only true love. I know you have constantly preached forgiveness; I will forgive my parents but it will take some time. How do you just expect me to forgive Baami just like that for throwing away my youth? Even if he could not send me to the University, he did not have to marry me off to Adejoro for his own benefit and ego. Ten years of my life crumpled and thrown away like a piece of paper? The only joy I have derived from the ten years are my children. Ajoke smiled as she thought about them. Despite the turmoil in her heart, her children meant the world to her.

**

Iya Ajoke was bent over a tray of garri. She tied a faded blue Adire scarf loosely over her head. Even from a distance, Ajoke noticed her mother looked tired. She remembered the blue Adire blouse and wrapper she was wearing. It had been one of the attires her father had included in the list given to Adejoro’s family during the preparation for her engagement. Her father had insisted every item on the list must be bought. She looked at her mother as the blouse hung loosely on her neck. The fabric had lost its luster and beauty. Just like I lost mine but regained it when Kokumo walked back into my life. Ajoke moved closer to her mother and greeted. Iya Ajoke looked up from her tray and covered it up in a hurry. She stretched her hands to welcome her daughter as Ajoke knelt.

“Ëkú’ròlé Màámi.
“Good evening my mother.”

“Àjoké ömö mi. Sé daadaa lë wà?” Iya Ajoke pulled her daughter up as she held her hands.
“Ajoke, my daughter. How are you doing?”

“Adúpé Màámi.
“We thank God.”

Iya Ajoke looked behind Ajoke.

“Àwön ömö mi nkó? O ò kó wön wá rí mi ni?”
“Where are my children? You did not come with them to visit me?

“Rárá mà. Wón ti lö sí school.”
“No ma. They have gone to school.”

“Ó da béè.” Iya Ajoke nodded. “Jé ka wö inú ilé.”
“That’s fine. Let us go inside.”

Iya Ajoke asked her daughter what meal she could prepare for her but Ajoke declined and told her she only had a few minutes. She informed them that she had been admitted into the University to study Law and that she was resuming in two days. Her mother was excited and shocked. She asked how long Ajoke had been preparing and planning; Ajoke told her for a few months. Baba Ajoke could not utter a word. He bowed his head in shame; he knew he had failed his daughter. First, denying her the education she desired and secondly, sealing her fate with a man who had abandoned her and made her a single mother prematurely. He prayed for Ajoke and asked God to distinguish her in her studies. As he prayed, his voice broke and Ajoke stood up from her kneeling position and hugged her father. He may not be the greatest father but she forgave him; he did what he thought was best for his family at the time.

*****

Ajoke’s first year on campus went by smoothly. Kokumo was always available to assist her financially. Even though Ajoke began to kick against it, Kokumo did not relent. He told her the proceeds from her salon were not enough to sustain her family and education. He therefore transferred money into her account with his bank at the end of every month.

After Ajoke’s second semester exams in her third year, Kokumo called her and asked that she stopped by his house on her way home. She packed up her travel bag and flagged down a taxi to take her to Kokumo’s house. She had taken up a short-term accommodation so she could concentrate on her exams. She had also gotten her mother to stay with the kids and the maid; so she could keep an eye on them in her absence. Kokumo met her at the door and planted a kiss on her lips. “I have missed you.” He said.

“You don’t know how much I have.” Ajoke replied as she hugged him tight.

Kokumo collected her travel bag from her and dropped it on a single couch. He smiled as he held her hand. “Have you eaten?”

“Yes, I had lunch just before leaving school. So what’s up? How was work today?” Ajoke asked as she sat down and made herself comfortable.

“Work was fine. I came in a few minutes ago. How were your exams?”

Ajoke rolled her eyes. “Hectic. I’m glad it is over so I can sleep better.”

“I wanted you to come here before going home so we could talk.”

Ajoke smiled. “What’s the gist? I have all evening.”

Kokumo cleared his throat and sat down a little away from Ajoke.

“Erm….I……I’m…..”Kokumo stammered as he avoided Ajoke’s eyes.

Ajoke looked at Kokumo. She was surprised he was at a loss of what to say. She scooted closer to him and held his hands. “Kokumo, what’s wrong?”

Kokumo took a deep breath.

“Is this something I need to be scared about?” Ajoke asked as she searched his face.

“I don’t know….erm….I don’t know…how…..how to say…erm….”

“You don’t know….Kokumo, what is going on?”

“I’m getting married.” Kokumo blurted out.

“You are what?” Ajoke screamed as she dropped his hands and stood up.

Kokumo looked at her. He knew it was going to be difficult but he had to tell her. The pressure from his mother had increased and Adunni was also beginning to feel that he wasn’t committed to her. She had visited him unannounced two weeks ago and asked him what his plans were. She said she needed to know so she could move on. He asked her for time to think about it but Adunni had said she wanted an answer right away. She told him she found out he had been seeing an old flame for about two years but had decided to be quiet about it. Adunni said she had left him alone because she thought he would come to his senses. She told him she had given him enough time to consider and decide between her and Ajoke but since it seemed he was bent on continuing his relationship with Ajoke, there was no point holding on to him. Adunni said she wanted to move on and stop wasting her time with him if Ajoke was his future. She said she had given him a long rope to frolic with his girlfriend and it was time for her to know where she stood. If you are getting married to her, then stop holding on to me. Let me go; Adunni had concluded.

Kokumo had been lost for words. He hadn’t imagined that Adunni would find out about Ajoke. He thought he had been very careful and discreet about his relationship with her. He was more shocked that even though Adunni had found out about his dalliance with her, she chose to remain silent. Adunni had a beautiful soul and he couldn’t afford to lose her. He was also in love with Ajoke but life had taken them through different paths. He could not have his cake and eat it at the same time. He needed to make a decision.

He closed his eyes as he thought about all the good times he had spent with Ajoke. Their renewed love and the dreams she had shared with him during their intimate moments. He thought about the joy and fulfillment he had whenever they shared their bodies and soul. He thought about the laughter her kids brought into his life whenever he took them out. He knew all that would make no meaning if her husband decided to come back home someday. Ajoke is still married to Adejoro. It is time to move on.

Right there, he apologized to Adunni for his past attitude towards her and told her he was ready to take their relationship serious. He sought her forgiveness for taking her for granted and he promised to end his relationship with Ajoke. The next weekend, he took her to see his mother. Iya Kokumo was overjoyed and treated Adunni like a queen. She asked her if she and Kokumo had picked a date for their wedding and Adunni had laughed.

**

Ajoke’s sobs brought Kokumo out of his reverie. Ajoke wasn’t the only one heartbroken; he was as well. But he had decided to take what life had given him and make the best use of it. He needed to convince Ajoke to do the same. He stood up and walked towards her. Her back was turned to him and he prayed in his heart that she would listen to him.

“Ajoke, please don’t do this.” He said turning her by the shoulders to face him.

Ajoke’s body shook as she cried uncontrollably.

Kokumo took her in his arms and hugged her tight. “Ajoke, please stop crying.” He said.

“What….what….did….I….I ever do….do to deserve this?”

“Nothing my love. Absolutely nothing. Life has been unfair but we can’t continue to live in the mistakes of the past. Let go Ajoke and make the best use of what life has given you.” Kokumo said as he cupped her face in his hands.

“I love you Kokumo.”

“I know Ajoke. I never stopped loving you too but we have to move on.”

“I don’t want to; can’t you understand?” Ajoke cried.

“It would be unfair to you and to those we love if we keep our lives at a standstill. Please don’t do this to us.”

Ajoke looked up at Kokumo as she broke down again into sobs. This life means nothing to me without Kokumo. How am I supposed to live without him? God, what kind of curse have you placed on me? Why did you let him walk back into my life so you could yank him away from me again? A second time? Ha! My joy is taken away from me a second time. Kokumo held her and rocked her till her sobs subsided. Ajoke wiped her tears as she looked at him. “So this is it? Another goodbye from you just like you did years ago?”

Kokumo nodded sadly.

Ajoke sighed as she shook her head. She felt sorry for herself and wondered why she had to suffer so much for love. She raised her head and held Kokumo’s hands. “Thank you.” She said. She walked towards her travel bag and was about picking it up when Kokumo reached her in two steps and held her up to face him. He kissed her passionately and Ajoke returned his kiss with the same passion. They ravaged each other’s lips desperately as they steadily built up and fanned the embers of passion in their bodies. Right there in Kokumo’s living room, he once again took Ajoke into the throes of passion as both of them cried out and moaned in satisfaction and fulfillment. As they lay side by side, arms around each other in the still and quiet living room, they both shed tears – tears of a lost love.

**

Kokumo dropped Ajoke at home hours later. As she eased out of his car, she refused to look back to say goodbye to him as she did not want to break down again. Her mother and her kids welcomed her home and she faked a smile – which was obvious – as she told her mother she needed to be alone. She lied that she was tired and stressed from her exams. Her mother urged her to take a bath and go to bed.

As Ajoke stepped under the shower and opened the tap, she sat on the floor and burst into tears again. She hugged herself and cried. What kind of life is this? Why am I so unfortunate? Kokumo, I knew you had a girlfriend but I really wanted you to be mine forever. We were meant to be together. Why would you do this to me again? Why would you kill the joy I had being with you? She bit her finger, shook her head, and almost cursed her father. Baami, this is all your fault. She gritted her teeth to stop herself from screaming. When she was spent from her tears, she walked out of the bathroom thirty minutes later and flopped on the bed. She hugged her pillow as the day took its toll on her. She slept off thinking about Kokumo, regretting the life she lived and thinking about the life she could have had but lost as a result of her parent’s choices.
—–

The story continues…

Photo Credit: http://www.shutterstock.com

The Wait – Chapter 13

Ajoke eased into Kokumo’s car after his insistence to drop her at home. It was 9p.m and he did not want to risk letting her go home alone at that time of the night. There was still a lot to be discussed between them but this night was not the night. His heart was joyful and troubled at the same time. He had poured out all his feelings of the last ten years into the intimate moment with her. His heart had burst forth with joy and the ten-year burden on his soul had felt lighter with Ajoke in his arms. After their intimacy, they had stayed locked in each other’s embrace for some minutes; none said a word. Their naked bodies and their hearts had spoken. If he had his way, she would not leave his side again and forever. He held her hand as he drove with the other. “I don’t know if we should have done what we did in there.” He said looking at her. “I’m sorry.”

Ajoke shook her head as she sighed. “There is nothing to be sorry about, Kokumo. We both longed for it and I do not regret my actions.”

Kokumo took a deep breath. He also did not regret the moment they had together but he still felt culpable. The love he had for Ajoke was deeply buried in his heart and it only took seeing her again to awaken the love which still breathed. Ajoke is still married; I should have restrained myself. He sighed. “Ajoke, I want you to go back to school.”

“Why?” Ajoke asked as she looked at him.

“It was your dream to be educated even though your parents could not afford it. What is stopping you now?”

“I don’t know.”

“I will get you a GCE form so that you can write the next exams in October. I will also get you the syllabus compilations for all the subjects you will need.”

“But you don’t have to do this. You don’t owe me anything.” Ajoke said.

“I don’t owe you anything, Ajoke. You seem to forget that we shared our dreams years ago. I have achieved mine and I want you to achieve yours as well. You can still become that lawyer you always wanted to be. And as long as I have breath in me, I would do anything within my power to help you fulfill your dreams.”

“Thank you but I don’t want to be a burden to you.”

Kokumo looked at her. “Ajoke, you can’t and will never be a burden to me. You underestimate the love I have for you.”

Ajoke looked away as she sighed.

In a few minutes, Kokumo parked his car in front of Ajoke’s house. He smiled as he looked at her and traced her lips with his fingers. Ajoke closed her eyes expecting Kokumo to kiss her but he did not. He was in front of her house and her kids could be watching. He did not want to give anyone a reason to question her. He took her hand and squeezed it. “I will get the forms and the books tomorrow as discussed. Let me have your phone so I can save my number on it.”

Ajoke opened her handbag and brought out her phone. The phone had been held together by cello tapes in various areas. Kokumo collected the phone from her without saying a word. He typed his number on it and saved it before handing the phone back to her.

“Thank you for everything.” Ajoke said.

“Thank you for making my evening pleasant.” Kokumo responded.

Ajoke opened the door and eased out of the car. She walked to the front of her door and turned back. Kokumo had started the car but was still waiting. Ajoke waved as she opened the door to her house and Kokumo drove away after ensuring her door was closed.

******

Kokumo got home and sat on the sofa in the living room where he and Ajoke had been intimate some hours ago. He closed his eyes as he reminisced on their time together. Ajoke’s responses to his touch had been electrifying and he wondered if she had been touched by any man since her husband left. Knowing who Ajoke was, he reckoned she would have kept herself all these years. What exactly am I doing with her? He had no intentions of getting married to her while she was still married to another. What if her husband decides to come home? What if he had issues in the U.K that warranted the seven-year silence from him? Hmm….Ajoke!!! Kokumo could not deny the fact that he loved her and wished to make her happy; married to another man or not. He would go to the ends of the earth to make her dreams come true; even though those dreams were not inclusive of him anymore. He looked at the table clock on the credenza. It read 10.30pm. He needed to sleep to be refreshed for work tomorrow. He stretched out on the sofa and closed his eyes. Soon, he was fast asleep with all his thoughts on Ajoke.

The next day during his lunch break, Kokumo purchased the GCE forms, the textbooks and a mobile phone. He also went to a boutique and shopped for a few clothes and shoes. He went back to his office, happy with his purchases. When he closed at 6.00pm, he stopped at an eatery to buy food and drove towards Ajoke’s house. He parked some metres away from her house and placed a call to her.

Ajoke was in her shop when Kokumo’s call came through. She stepped out of her shop to receive the call as she did not want either her girls or her customers eavesdropping on her conversation.

“Hello.” Ajoke said.

“Hi Ajoke. How are you doing?”

“I’m well.”

“I am very close to your house. Are you at home or at your salon?”

“I’m at the salon.” Ajoke said. “What are you doing around here?”

Kokumo smiled. “I came to pick you up.”

“To where?”

“I don’t know. We can go anywhere around or just sit in my car and talk. Can we do that?” Kokumo asked hoping her response would be positive.

Ajoke sighed. “Okay. Where exactly are you?”

Kokumo gave his location and Ajoke went inside her shop instructing her girls on what to do for the rest of the day. She had gone home earlier to prepare lunch for her kids and she thought about calling Kokumo to inform him that she had to go and prepare dinner. She would let him know he may have to wait a while; she thought as she walked towards his location.

Kokumo watched Ajoke as she approached his car. She was wearing an Ankara blouse and wrapper. His heart fluttered at the sight of her. She is beautiful. Ajoke got to the car and Kokumo eased out and gave her a half-hug. “How is your day going?” He asked.

“Good.” Ajoke said. “I may have to take some of your time. I need to go prepare dinner for my children first.” She continued.

“Don’t worry about that.” Kokumo said as he stretched his hand towards the back seat of his car and picked out the plastic bags containing food. He handed it to her. “I knew you wouldn’t be able to leave without dinner prepared so I decided to bring dinner.”

Ajoke looked at Kokumo with surprise.

“Hey, I’m sure the children will be getting hungry. It is almost 7.00pm.” He said; stretching the bags towards her when he noticed she just stood looking at him.

Ajoke nodded, collected the bags and walked home.

Kokumo rested his back on the car as he watched her walking away. “Hmm Ajoke.” He said as he shook his head. He hadn’t called Adunni since he met Ajoke yesterday and he wasn’t sure if what he was doing made any sense. Ajoke was all that mattered to him now.

*

Ajoke was out of her house in ten minutes. She had changed into a long flowing dress and she looked even more beautiful. Kokumo did a quick mental check of where they could hang out without any disturbance. The village did not have any eateries around. He concluded he may have to drive back to town.

They hit the road and Kokumo asked after Ajoke’s children. She seemed happier talking about her children and he reveled in her joy as she gesticulated and made funny faces. They drove to an eatery on the outskirts of the village and he walked in holding her hand. He asked her if she wanted to eat but she took a rain check. He told her he had gotten the forms and the textbooks and that they were in the car. Ajoke smiled her thanks and he discussed her next plan which should be passing the exams, sitting for the next Jamb examinations and getting into school to study Law. He asked how she intended to take care of her kids once she was in school and she replied that she would employ a maid to assist her. He told her he was available and willing during the weekends to help her if she had any issues with any of the subjects.

Ajoke was grateful for everything and she told him so. Kokumo also handed over the plastic bag containing the mobile phone, clothes and shoes to her. Ajoke was shocked beyond words. She looked at Kokumo as they sat in the car after leaving the eatery. “What do you stand to gain in all this?” She asked.

“Nothing Ajoke. Absolutely nothing.”

Ajoke exhaled. “I really don’t know how to say thank you.”

Kokumo smiled. “You don’t have to. Can I take you home now?” He asked. “The children would be waiting.”

“Yes please.” Ajoke said.

They drove back to the village in silence. Kokumo parked at the same spot he had parked earlier on in the day. He switched off the ignition and looked at Ajoke. “If you can, please fill the forms this evening or tomorrow morning at the latest.” He said.

“I will.”

“Take care of you.”

Ajoke suddenly felt unhappy that she was leaving. She wished she could stay back. His presence in her life was like a soothing balm calming her soul. She removed her seat belt and stretched across her seat. She kissed Kokumo slowly and he returned her kiss. When she eased away, she smiled, bid him good night and stepped out of his car. Kokumo watched her till she had closed the door of her house before starting the engine and driving away.

——-

The story continues…

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The Wait – Chapter 12

Ajoke sat in the taxi taking her back to the village. She put her hand on her chest willing her heart to slow down to its normal rhythm. She wasn’t sure whether it was the sight of Kokumo after ten years or the hope that she was going to see him that evening that made her heart beat faster; but it did. He hadn’t changed much and seeing him again had awoken feelings in her that she thought were dead. She sighed as she closed her eyes. Is he married? He hadn’t mentioned anything about a wife. If he was, he would not have asked me to see him in the evening.

She remembered his question about when she intended to go back to school and she suddenly became upset. What guts did he have to ask me about that? He had had it relatively easy for him. His dream had always been to be a graduate. And now he even worked in a bank with his certificate. She hissed as she thought of her life. Her dream of ever going to the university had been truncated by her father the day he gave her hand in marriage to Adejoro. Adejoro had been more bothered about his own education. Hers was a distraction to the marriage as far as he was concerned. As long as he provided for her and their kids, she did not need to worry herself about an education; he had told her. If only I knew Adejoro would leave and abandon me in the cold. How selfish of him! Now that the sole responsibility of taking care of her children rested on her shoulders, Kokumo had the effrontery to talk her into getting a university education. She hissed again as she looked out of the window. She had promised to see him at 7.30; she would keep to her promise.

*

She closed from her shop about thirty minutes earlier, so she could make an early dinner for her children. Once dinner had been served, she told them she wanted to see a friend in town and would be back before their bedtime.

She boarded a danfo into town and hoped to be back early enough. Different thoughts ran through her mind as she sat in the bus taking her to the home of her beloved. If Baami hadn’t given me out in marriage to Adejoro, maybe I would also be working in a reputable organization like Kokumo. We would have gotten married, have children and live in a fine house in town. She sighed. Other passengers in the bus chatted non-stop but her mind was faraway. She hardly heard a word discussed in the noisy danfo.

As she walked the distance from the bus-stop to Kokumo’s house, she took a look at the dress she was wearing. She had changed into a dress from the blouse and wrapper she was wearing in the morning. She had made an extra effort to look better than she did in the morning. Not that it mattered anyway, she doubted Kokumo still found her attractive. She was no longer the young, slim and beautiful Ajoke he fell in love with. She had filled out in every aspect of her body. Her bust and hips were a size bigger. Her arms had become flabby with extra layers of flesh. Her skin had aged beyond their years from seasons of hardship and labour. There was nothing attractive about her; she told herself.

******

Kokumo couldn’t sit still. He had paced his living room more times than he could remember. Is Ajoke going to honour my invitation? Am I doing the right thing by inviting her to my house? He hadn’t even considered her children when he had asked her to meet him. How selfish of me? He blew out air through his mouth and rubbed his temples. He had missed her so much. He had tried unsuccessfully to forget about her throughout his stay in the university. He had buried himself in his books in a bid to get her off his mind. It worked but only for short periods. He refused to read her letters because he imagined reading them would reopen his wounds which were still fresh. His mother had also steered clear of talking about any woman as she noticed that anytime she asked if he was considering marriage after his education, he flared up and got upset.

He had graduated from the university with a First class and proceeded on the compulsory National Youth Service programme in Anambra state. All through, he had avoided intimate relationships like a plague. On his return from his youth service, his mother began to question him about marriage. She was worried that no woman visited and she voiced out her concerns. When he could no longer bear his mother’s questions, he moved out and got an apartment in town. Besides, it was easier for him to get to work from town than while living with his mother in the village. He had gotten her a mobile phone and taught her how to use it. Two months ago, he was transferred to the branch close to his house.

He thought about Adunni as he sat down on the couch in his living room. He had met her during his Youth Service in Anambra state. She was beautiful and fun to be with. Even though, she had wanted more from their friendship, he had made it clear to her that he was not interested in a relationship. She had been disappointed but had gotten over it quickly. She was free-spirited and he loved that about her. She held no grudges and saw the bright side of every situation.

After their Youth Service, they had kept in touch by calling each other once in a few weeks. She had gotten a job in a telecommunications company and lived with her parents on the other side of town. His last visit to his mother had not been pleasant. She had grumbled throughout his stay in her house. He had heard an earful from her. She had been upset about his inability to settle down. She had asked him what he was waiting for. He had said he wanted to be a graduate. He had said he needed a good job. He had gotten both but had still refused to settle down. She reminded him of all his friends who already had children and told him she was not ready to go down to her grave without seeing her grandchildren. That was six months ago.

He had left his mother’s house the next day and she had made him promise to settle down quickly. On his way home, he had thought over his mother’s request. She was right that he had to settle down but he couldn’t think of anyone who suited or complemented him. While he deliberated on what to do, Adunni had called him to tell him she was visiting an aunt around his vicinity and would not mind visiting him as well. He had gladly accepted her invitation. Out of all his female friends, she had remained a constant in his life.

He had told her that evening that he was willing to take their friendship a step further. Adunni had shrugged. If it worked out between them, it was fine. If it didn’t, she was willing to move on. She had told him. He had felt relieved that she had seen their relationship in that light.

******

The doorbell chimed bringing him out of his reverie. He looked at his wristwatch. It was 7.30pm. He stood up and walked to the door. As he opened the door, he smiled and let Ajoke in. Ajoke walked in with an expressionless face. Kokumo wondered what was on her mind. He observed her change of clothes and appreciated that she still looked as beautiful as she was in her teens. Even though she had filled out, she was still a beauty to behold. He imagined she would still be getting stares of admiration from men in her village. Ajoke! My love!

“Please sit down.” He said. “Have you had dinner? I bought some food at the eatery down the road just in case you hadn’t had dinner.”

“I’m fine.” Ajoke replied as she sat down. “You wanted to see me.”

Kokumo exhaled. He was hoping Ajoke would loosen up with him but it seemed she was bent on being uptight. He wanted the old Ajoke back. The Ajoke he had fallen in love with. The Ajoke that walked and danced with him on the road on their way back from secondary school. The Ajoke who never complained when her parents did not have enough to give her. The Ajoke he shared his heart and dreams with. He walked towards her, knelt on one knee before her as he took her hands in his. He looked into her eyes and deep into her soul. “Ajoke, please I said I am sorry. You are still upset with me.”

Ajoke had not expected his action and it had caught her by surprise. Ajoke looked at him and was about to speak but words failed her. She closed her eyes trying to stop the tears that were beginning to gather at the corner of her eyes. She had promised herself not to breakdown in Kokumo’s house or in his presence but her strength and resolve was failing her. I shouldn’t have come. I can’t keep still in Kokumo’s presence with my hands in his.

“Ajoke, please talk to me.” Kokumo said. “I love you and will always do.”

The words were the trigger Ajoke needed and she broke down into tears.

Kokumo stood up from his kneeling position and pulled Ajoke up. He hugged her tightly as she sobbed on his shoulders. He was in love with her and he could not deny it. The truth was that he never stopped loving her, but life had been unfair to them, throwing a curve in their lives. He wished there was something he could do to ease the pain they both felt. He wished there was something he could do to erase the last ten years and have them start their lives all over again. Ajoke’s tears were breaking his heart; the way they did ten years ago when he had told her goodbye to a life she detested. No one could match the love he had for her; not even Adunni. Adunni? Kokumo sighed. She does not matter now. Ajoke is who I want and need right now.

He raised her head as his lips found hers and he kissed her gently. Ajoke resisted as she put her hands on Kokumo’s chest and pushed him back. Kokumo stepped back and looked at her lovingly as he held on to her hands. The only source of light in his living room was from the television he had muted before Ajoke walked in. He used his thumb to wipe the tears on her cheeks which glowed in the dark. “You are still beautiful”; he whispered. A smile lifted the corner of Ajoke’s lips as she thought about her insecurities just a few moments ago. She sighed as she closed her eyes and allowed herself to savour his touch. She had longed for his touch. She had wanted his love, his kiss and his caress even when she lay beside Adejoro. Now he stands before me giving me all I ever wanted; all I craved for.

Kokumo pulled her closer and kissed her again; slowly and passionately. This time, Ajoke did not push him away. He had kindled a fire within her and her body which was long dead lit up with passion. She kissed him back with a hunger that had been buried for ten years as she held on tightly to him and refused to let go. She was in the arms of her beloved. The one who gave her tingly feelings with his kisses in her teens. She shuddered with every touch and every caress. Nothing mattered to her now – all she wanted was to be consumed by the love of her beloved. In a few minutes, both of them were caught in the frenzy of the moment and they tore at each other’s clothing thirsty with the desire they longed for. The desire they had been denied of – the desire Ajoke almost had ten years ago when she lay by the stream a week to her wedding to another man. As their naked bodies entwined on the seven seater couch in Kokumo’s living room, Ajoke’s body throbbed with passion and expectation. She had not been touched by any man in the past seven years and her body came alive. She screamed in ecstasy as she dug her fingers into Kokumo’s back and cried in fulfillment; her whole body trembling as he made her a woman to be loved again and a body to be relished without caution.

——-
The story continues…

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The Wait – Chapter 10

Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. With each passing month, Ajoke’s hope of receiving a letter from Adejoro dimmed. Initially, his mother frequented their home assuring her that he would be back soon but Ajoke was not sure who to believe; his friend or his mother. Adejoro’s mother gave no indication that her son had deserted his wife and Ajoke became more confused. She wondered a few times if Akanbi had mentioned her husband’s refusal to write back to spite her for refusing to sleep with him or if he meant what he had said. But she was unable to ask anyone. The only close friend Adejoro had was Akanbi and her elder brother and she was not sure if it was worth asking her brother, Adisa. Each day became a wait in expectation of a hope that was non-existent.

Six months after Adejoro’s scheduled return, Ajoke decided to go to her father’s house to talk to her brother. She reckoned that she was better off knowing if a calamity had befallen her husband than waiting expectantly for a letter that wasn’t forthcoming. She told Adisa about Akanbi’s statement carefully avoiding to discuss her encounter in his house. Even if her brother would forgive her for longing to be touched after years of abstinence, she was sure he would never forgive Akanbi for trying to take advantage of his sister. She knew her brother would head straight to Akanbi’s house and the consequences of his action could be fatal.

Adisa had been surprised by her revelation; and told Ajoke he was not aware Adejoro did not contact her anymore. He was even more shocked that he had stopped sending her a monthly stipend and wondered how his sister had coped the past six months with two extra mouths to feed. He scolded her for not confiding in him earlier but was glad that she sought his help now. He told her he was going to make sure he got to the root of the matter and find out exactly what the situation was.

Ajoke thanked him and Adisa gave her some money to take care of herself and her kids. Her mother also packed some foodstuff for her and Ajoke went home with her heart less burdened. The wait for word on her husband continued; albeit with support from her family. Three months after, Adisa sent an errand to Ajoke to come home. She wondered why Adisa would call for her as it was unusual. She hoped her parents were doing fine. She woke up early the next day, made food for her kids and got them prepared to visit her father’s house. She met her parents and her six brothers seated discussing when she walked in. The discussion stopped as soon as she stepped in and Ajoke felt uneasy. She looked at her father and her mother – they both looked well. Whatever had called for a family meeting must be very important; she reckoned.

Ajoke was asked to sit down and her mother took her grandchildren away, leaving Ajoke alone with her father and elder brothers. Adisa started by asking how she was faring and how she coped taking care of the children alone. Ajoke knew her brother was beating around the bush and she held her breath as she awaited the news from him that had made him call for a family meeting. Adisa eventually broke the bad news to Ajoke. Akanbi had been right – Adejoro had been enticed by the desire to live permanently abroad. He had therefore deserted her to build another home in the United Kingdom. Ajoke looked at her father’s face and shook her head in despair. Her father’s face mirrored her misery. He bowed his head and slumped his shoulders. This was not the desire he had for his only daughter. Ajoke’s face was resolute as she looked at the faces of each of her brothers. No tears escaped her eyes. She was only sad that she had become a single mother with no source of income.

She thanked her brother, Adisa and asked for her children. One of her brothers stood up to call for their mother. Ajoke’s mother came in with her grandchildren. She had tears in her eyes as she looked at Ajoke. She encouraged her daughter to stay the night but Ajoke refused; saying she was going back to her husband’s house – the house of the man she and her husband gave her out in marriage to. Iya Ajoke held her daughter’s hand as she begged her to forgive them. The tears threatening to spill came down Iya Ajoke’s cheeks in streams. She cried while Ajoke looked at her unflinching. They never imagined Adejoro would do this to them, Iya Ajoke said. She cursed the company that gave her son-in-law a scholarship and made her daughter a young single mother in her prime. She regretted the day she agreed to give out her daughter in marriage. She put her hands on her head as she grieved that her grandchildren would grow up without a father. Ajoke looked at her mother and sighed. There was no point lamenting, she told her mother. The deed had been done. The past couldn’t be erased. Ajoke walked out of her father’s house with her kids in tow.

When she got home, Ajoke sat down and looked around her. She needed a clear head and she pushed all thoughts of what could have been aside. The house she lived in had been built by Adejoro and she was glad she had no reason to worry about rent. She had never worked while she was married to Adejoro as he had seen no reason for her to. With two children in quick succession immediately after her marriage, she had had no opportunity to do any other thing but stay home and take care of her children. She thought of what she could do to earn a living so that she and her kids would not suffer. She remembered that when she was in the secondary school, a lot of her friends came to her house to get their hair weaved because most of them could not afford to pay a hairdresser. She stepped out of her house and looked around the vicinity. She saw a small carton lying on the ground; probably abandoned by some children who played around. She picked it up and took it into her house. She strapped her daughter on her back and held her son’s hand as she walked towards a primary school not too far from her house. Used pieces of chalk were strewn all over the floor and Ajoke picked up a few. She wrote on the carton with a piece of chalk advertising that a hairdresser lived within. She found a used rag and tore it into two, then used it to hang the carton on the tree in front of her house. She went back into her house to prepare a meal for her kids and awaited her first client.

Within a short while, word spread round that Iyawo Engineer weaved hair better than most of the other hairdressers in the vicinity. Ajoke’s house became a mecca of sorts for children and her weekends turned out to be her most busy period. She had mothers knocking on her door very early on Saturday morning to plait their daughter’s hair as they did not want to be caught up in long queues later in the day. Those who couldn’t deal with the long queues on Saturdays brought their daughters on Sundays. Ajoke hardly had time for a breather during the weekends.

She enrolled her kids in the nearby primary school and life took a new turn for her. Soon, the mothers who dropped their daughters also needed her services to get their own hair done and Ajoke became busier by the day. Her days became filled with work and soon the mothers had to book appointments. She no longer thought about what to eat and how to survive. She had just enough to feed herself and her kids.

The years rolled by and Ajoke forgot about her husband. His mother still visited her once in a while to see how her grand-children were faring in light of their father’s absence. By an unspoken agreement, Ajoke and her mother-in-law never discussed Adejoro. His mother could visit whenever she deemed fit but Ajoke demonstrated to her husband’s mother that she had no need for their family. Iya Ajoke also visited her grand-children but the relationship between mother and daughter was strained. Iya Ajoke tried to lighten her daughter’s burden by visiting with foodstuffs and buying gifts for her grand-children. Ajoke performed her duties to her parents but it was not done out of love but out of obligation. Her elder brothers all got married and had successful marriages.

*****

Seven years after Adejoro abandoned Ajoke, she rented a shop close to her house and opened a small salon with the proceeds of her business, establishing a name in the village as one of the foremost hairdressers. She recruited two girls who helped her in her salon and business went smoothly. Her brother, Adisa was happy that she was doing well and on one of his visits to her house, he advised that she opened a bank account so she could have some money saved for the rainy day.

Ajoke heeded her brother’s advice and took a bus to the nearest town the next day to open an account. She walked into the bank feeling a little strange as it was her first time in a banking hall. She had previously kept the proceeds of her business in a bag which she kept under her bed. The spacious banking hall was filled with the young and the old all waiting to be attended to. Even with the air-conditioning at full blast, the banking hall was stuffy with the smell of fish and raw beef mixed with sawdust and cement. Ajoke stood in queue by the customer service corner of the hall and awaited her turn. The lady at the customer service desk smiled at her as she asked Ajoke to sit down and gave her an account opening form to fill.

As Ajoke bent her head to fill the form, a man walked out of his office and called the attention of the customer service staff to a form in his hand. Ajoke froze as she heard the voice of the man who she assumed was the lady’s boss. She held on to the pen in her hand mid-air as the questions on the form became confusing – her mind went blank. She was scared to look up to identify the person who had just spoken. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know but she also needed to know. The manager walked to the customer service desk and stood beside his report requesting for more information regarding a customer’s form in his hands. As he spoke to her, Ajoke summoned up courage to lift her head. She met the manager’s eyes and the expression on the faces of both was shock. Ajoke could not believe her eyes. Her jaw dropped as she looked at him. The manager was stunned that he couldn’t finish his sentence. He started to stammer as his mind refused to process the information he was passing across to his report. He stood there looking at Ajoke; confusion and shock stamped on his face. The customer service staff noticed her boss was a little disoriented and asked him if he was okay. She wondered what had suddenly caught her boss’ attention and looked at Ajoke.

Ajoke had however, turned her attention back to the form she was filling. She could not fill the form any longer as the letters danced before her eyes. She held on to her pen refusing to look up as her eyes filled with tears. She could not afford to break down here in the presence of strangers. She bit her lower lip as she blew air through her mouth in a bid to subdue the tears. Life had been unfair to her. She quickly filled the form and handed it over to the lady before rushing out of the bank in a hurry.

———

The story continues…..

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The Wait – Chapter 8

Kokumo walked home dejected. The joy and happiness he had initially felt coming home had been stolen from him and he saw no reason to be home. He would have turned back to school but he knew that all his roommates would have also left the campus by now and locked the room. He just wanted to be alone to lick his wounds. He sauntered into his compound, taking out his own key to the padlock on their door. He opened the main door, dropped his travel bag on the floor in his room and flopped on the mattress. He had suddenly lost his appetite and also lost interest in everything. He knew his mother would still be at the market but he did not look forward to seeing her. If only she had pushed him a little to take action the day she had the discussion about Ajoke with him. He sighed as he tossed on the mattress. The day took its toll on him and in a few minutes, he was snoring loudly.

Iya Kokumo arrived home to meet the padlock to the main door of their house open. Only Kokumo had a key to the door. Does that mean my son is home? She quickly dropped her basket of left-over fruits by the door and rushed to her son’s room. She saw him sprawled on the bed snoring loudly and smiled. Her son was home. She closed the door to his room quietly and went to the kitchen. He must be tired and hungry. She set to work as her hands moved in quick motions to prepare a meal for her son.

***

Kokumo woke up at about 7.30pm and heard the melodious voice of his mother as she sang praises to God in the kitchen. He stood up and stretched lazily. His tummy began to rumble announcing the arrival of hunger pangs. He walked to the kitchen to see his mother and to assist her with the food she was preparing.

“Ëkáalé màámi.”
“Good evening, my mother.” He greeted touching the floor in a half-prostrate.

Iya Kokumo held a pot over a stove with her left hand as she used a small turning stick in her right hand to beat the amala she was preparing into a fine paste. She stopped momentarily, turned round to look at her son and smiled.

“Kòkúmó, ömö mi. Káàbò. Báwò ni ilé-ìwé.”
“Kokumo, my son. Welcome. How was school?”

“Daadaa ni mà. Mi ò mò pé ë ti dé lé láti öjà.”
“It was good. I did not realize you had arrived from the market.” Kokumo replied.

Iya Kokumo returned her gaze to the amala in the pot.

“Èmi náà mö bê. Mo ri pé ó rè é gan.”
“I know. I could see you were very tired.”

“Kínni ki n bá a yín se?”
“What can I do for you?” Kokumo asked.

“Má yö ara ë lénu. Ìwö lö jòkó, ko ma wò ní tìë. Óúnjë ti fé jiná.”
“Don’t bother yourself. Just sit and watch. Your food is almost ready.”

Kokumo picked up a small stool by a corner of the kitchen and sat down as he watched his mother. He put his hand on his chin and was lost in thought that he did not realize when she finished the food and dished his meal into a bowl.

“Kokumo, Kokumo.” Iya Kokumo called.

Kokumo suddenly jerked up and looked at his mother. “Maami.”

Iya Kokumo dropped the bowl of amala and ewedu she was holding on the kitchen stool which served as her table and touched Kokumo on his forehead to feel for his temperature.

“Kílódé, ömö mi.”
“What is wrong, my child?”

“Kò sí ìyönu Màámi.”
“There’s no problem, my mother.”

Iya Kokumo looked at her son unconvinced. She stood before him as she waited for him to say something. Kokumo knew his mother would not let him be until he voiced out what plagued his heart. He noticed the worried look on her face and stood up from the stool to pick up his meal.

“Ë jé ka lö jëun.”
“Let us eat.” He said to his mother. He needed to get himself together; he did not want his mother getting worried unnecessarily.

***

Kokumo refused to step out of his house for the next one week. His mother had expected him to visit his farm to see to what his workers were doing but he had no pleasure in that. She asked him every day what the problem was, but he continued to state that he was fine. The pain in his heart was great and being on the farm was not going to help ease the pain. It was only going to remind him of everything and everyone he had lost – his father, Ajoke, their love and their future together.

Deep down, he was also a little angry with his mother. He understood that the situation between himself and Ajoke was beyond her control but if only she had pushed him a little. If only she had welcomed Ajoke the day she saw her in his embrace. If only she had realized early that he was not too young to get a wife. If only she had encouraged him to go ahead and visit Ajoke’s father. If only she had advised him that he need not wait till graduation before getting married. If only she had guided him to marry Ajoke and bring her home. There were a lot of ‘if onlys” that his mother could have done but she had done none.

*

Two weeks after his arrival at home, he was sitting down with his mother outside the house when an old friend of his from secondary school passed by. His friend spotted him and his mother and walked up to them smiling. The last time they saw was the day they wrote their final papers for the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations.

“Ah ah Kokumo!” Ajirebi said stressing his name. “Ojú ë rèé.”
“Is this you?”

Kokumo stood up to hug his friend. “Ajirebi, long time. Where have you been?”

Ajirebi did a half-prostrate to greet Iya Kokumo.

“Ëkú’ròlé mà.”
“Good evening ma.”

“Kú’ròlé Ajírébi. Àwön òbí rë n kó?”
“Good evening Ajirebi. How are your folks?” Iya Kokumo smiled as she acknowledged Ajirebi.

“Dáadáa ni wón wà mà.”
“They are fine ma.”

“Ìwo àti òyìnbó ë yìí.”
“You and this your English.” Ajirebi said as he looked at Kokumo. “You no dey tire.”

Kokumo laughed as he slapped his friend on the back. “Wetin you wan make I do? Make I no speak am again?”

Ajirebi suddenly pulled his friend by the arm. “Wetin happen to Ajoke? I hear say she don marry.”

Kokumo looked at his mother and noticed she was looking at both of them. Even though, she was not literate, she understood pidgin English.

“Yes, she should be married now.” Kokumo said looking away.

“Ah…ah, no be say both of you dey carry yourself for secondary school as husband and wife. Women!!!” Ajirebi lamented.

“It is not Ajoke’s fault.” Kokumo shouted at his friend.

Ajirebi looked at his friend, shock written on his face. “Wetin I talk?” He asked gesticulating with his hands.

Kokumo took a deep breath as he calmed down. “It is not her fault. Her father married her off against her will.”

“Hmm…” Ajirebi said as he squeezed his face. “I no know. Ah, the thing go pain you gan oh.” He continued as he bit his forefinger.

Iya Kokumo looked from the son to his friend. She noticed Kokumo was uncomfortable with the discussion and decided to step in.

“Ëìn Ajírébi, kí àwön òbí rë fún mi o.”
“Ajirebi, send my regards to your folks.”

She turned to her son. “Óyá nínu ílé. Èyí ta se ní ìta ti tó.”
“Let us go inside. We have had enough outside.”

Kokumo obeyed his mother as he walked into the house without looking back to say good bye to his friend. He sat down and there was a look of misery on his face. His mother walked into the house, shut the door firmly and sat beside him.

“Kòkúmó, ìdí tí gbogbo nkan ò se wùn é se mó leléyìí, àbí?”
“This is the reason why nothing has been of importance to you anymore, right?”

Kokumo sighed as he looked at his mother.

“Sé o féràn ömö yën tó bè?”
“Do you love her that much?”

Kokumo nodded his head, unable to utter words.

“Mo dè sö fún ë nigba yën o. O ní pé àdéhùn tí èyin méjèjì jö ní nipé ë ma féra tí o bá ti se tán ní ilé-ìwé gíga.”
“And I told you then; but you said it was the agreement between you both to get married after your university education.”

Kokumo put his head in his palms. He did not want to be reminded about the mistake he had made. It still hurt and his heart was still tender and broken. Iya Kokumo noticed her son’s hurt and pulled him close as she rested his head on her bosom. His mother’s action broke him and he groaned as he hid his face in her bosom and shed tears of hurt and pain; his body wracking with each sob. His heart had been shattered into a million pieces and life had lost meaning to him. He had tried unsuccessfully to put the matter behind him; and right now, Ajirebi had brought it to the fore and reopened his wounds.

Iya Kokumo prayed for her son that evening; that he would find his own wife when it was time. She also admonished him to put the love he had for Ajoke behind him and focus on his studies. She told him that maybe they were not meant to be together and he had to accept what fate had in store for him. His mother’s words made him both angry and sad. He was angry that fate did not recognize the love he had for Ajoke; he was sad that he was helpless and had to accept what life had thrown at him.

Kokumo went back to school a week later. The love he had for Ajoke could not easily be forgotten but he was going to make an effort. She was now married to another man and wishing things were different was only going to keep him depressed.

——
The story continues…

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